View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Wednesday 31 October

Hope you have all had (or having) a nice Hallowe'en today. As my previous post indicates, to me, it has a rather more sombre connotation, but I have said enough on the subject. I continue to be horrified at the extent of the damage and loss of life left behind as a result of Sandy. The storm system has dissipated over the Great Lakes, and its after-effects are diminishing. Tropical cyclone Nilam has slammed into southeastern India with winds at severe gale force and heavy rain.

Today in Stornoway saw cool weather, but with nice sunny spells. As I type this, the decrescent moon has risen high in the eastern sky and the mercury has gone down to near zero. We should continue to have the same sort of weather over the next few days, so actually, little reason for complaint.

Locally, there is an on-going discussion about the price of fuel ($9 a US gallon, or £1.50 a litre). Allegations have been levelled against one wholesaler about price-fixing, profiteering and monopoies - refuted by said wholesaler. The price difference with Inverness (15p) remains noticeable, and one wonders about that.

Hallowe'en 2012

Reposted from 2010
Hallowe'en is not a tradition I grew up with, and I've only grown more familiar with it since I came to the UK, 15 years ago this month. It is a relatively inoccuous event, although I resent, like the gentleman in the pic above, the abuse of black cats just because they have black fur.

I'll just stick to the black cat as depicted in this graphic. My family had a black tomcat for 15 years in the 1970s and 1980s, and he was the friendliest creature you could care to find. Other cats, around at the time, would agree or disagree with that vehemently; other toms would get a sound thrashing out of him, whilst the females of the species got all they ever wanted out of him and more.

Donna provided me with this graphic 5 years ago, and I'm glad to see she's slowly getting back in the habit. She was also behind this graphic
which had us trick-or-treating through J-land, meaning this image is at least 4 years old. I had two Hallowe'ens in J-land (2006 and 2007); J-land was closed down on Hallowe'en 2008. I was sitting in an airport lounge at Aberdeen when news came through that our blogs had gone. I've never understood why they had to be deleted, rather than being kept in an archived status. It caused a lot of upset, and I've not forgiven AOL for it.

Hallowe'en has a serious side to it. Its full name is All Hallows' Eve, the day before All Hallows, when we remember those that have passed away. 1 November will be the day, 4½ years ago, that my mother passed away, and I'll bear that in mind on the day. Others who have recently lost loved ones or friends will be kept in mind on that day. November is also the month that I post the links to journals whose bloggers have gone before, and I'm closing this admittedly sombre post with that.

In remembering those that went before us, we will gain strength from their memory and the fortitude they showed in adversity.

One Girl's Head Noise (UK) - Pam, RIP 16 April 2006
There are no Sundays - Jim, RIP April 2007
The Diatom Project - Walt, RIP 27 April 2007
Pennie's Pieces of Ohio - Penny, RIP 1 October 2007
My Reason for Reasoning - Barbara, RIP 20 November 2007
Lahoma's Laments - Lahoma, RIP 25 December 2007
I shaved my legs for this??? - Kim, RIP 26 December 2007
Sylvia Boiling, RIP 2 May 2008
Dribble by Chuck Ferris - Chuck, RIP 1 July 2008
Lori's Love Tribe - Lori, RIP 22 November 2009
Just Plain Bill, Bill, RIP 28 November 2010
A journey of another kind, Jane, RIP 30 May 2010
Daria, RIP 22 January 2011
Angie Marshall, RIP 30 January 2011
Lori Johnson, RIP 16 February 2011
Rebecca Robertson, formerly as Journeyzpath (Summer 2011)
Say it Baldy, Sam Shafer, RIP 29 June 2011
Gypsypaths, Carol Martinez, RIP 28 September 2011
Larry Wayland (moondawg), 2 December 2011
Frances Lawson, RIP 28 March 2012
Dad's Tomato Garden, Ray White, RIP 9 May 2012
Andy, RIP 15 September 2012


I know several ladies, some of whom I have met in person, who have the first name Alexandra, in certain instances abbreviated to Sandy. It has been common practice to name tropical cyclones (hurricanes), and the storm that hit the eastern USA on Monday was named Sandy. Now, I have made it clear in the past that I tend to look at hurricanes as a natural phenomenon, depersonalised and not malicious. Referring to Sandy as a "monster" storm is something I scorn at. But seeing the effects on television, I can certainly understand the emotions that underpin such descriptions.

The storm surge flooding in New York City has brought the place to a virtual standstill, exacerbated by the fire in the borough of Queens that could not be combated because of flooding. The water can be pumped away, for sure. Damage can be repaired, although there will be many people who will find it hard if not impossible to locate the funds to do that.

I was taken aback by the result of the flooding in New Jersey, which did not just leave water but feet and feet of sand in the streets and around houses. The electricity outages here are likely to last for some days yet, and will make life very difficult for those still in situ. Many have been evacuated, and will not be able to return home for a while yet - if they have a home to return to.

I am quite disgusted with the politicking that has promptly resumed on Facebook, and negative at that. If you support a candidate, please just extol his virtues rather than downcry the opponent. In slamming the opposition you waste time you could spend more constructively supporting your candidate. Unless he does not have anything that is worth highlighting. And it's not even certain that there will be an election on November 6th, bearing in mind the disruption caused by Sandy.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The circle of peat

Distant summers
Forgotten breezes
Rains long since flowed to sea
The autumns of years

Green growth
Long grass
First yellow
Now brown

Moss capturing moisture
Deepening below
Cracks open in drought
Disappear in wet seasons

The memory of years
cut with the spade
dried over weeks
as the sun rises high

Stacked by the house
prepared for winter
to release warmth
when the cold wind blows

Smelling of springtime
smoke drifts away
the cycle completes
the circle of peat

Tuesday 30 October

Another cold and mainly wet day, looking very grey indeed. Nonetheless, compared to what the eastern USA is having to go through, I'm not going to complain. A ray of sunshine would be welcome, but the only celestial body I see a lot of these days is the moon.

After two days of shopping in the supermarket, trying to dodge empty shelves, MV Muirneag came in at 10 o'clock this morning, carrying loads of supplies. I was asking myself what the reason for the cancellation was, until I spoke to someone who had just come off the ferry, looking a bit green about the gills. In other words, there had been quite a swell running in the Minch.

And I just felt like posting this image of one our cats in his hey-day: Thomas. He went over the Rainbow Bridge in 1988 at the age of 15.

Thomas by Veluweman


Empty windows look out on the yellowed grass
Panes blown out in a forgotten gale
Tiles disappearing from the roof
But no one is caring

The ocean thunders onto distant cliffs
A moving wreath around the western coast
An army of white riders incessantly
assail the crumbling fortress that is shore

Sagging poles carry rusting wire
No longer delineating the patch
of infertile, poor, unsustaining ground
where once cattle and sheep grazed

The door has gone, a void beyond
Another frame behind, also unshuttered
Countless rocks from the empire of
sonte, yet choked with rocks the ground remains

Walls stand up, bewildered now that
the roof has vanished, perhaps
a beam remains, collapsed into
the ruin below

A squall blows in, the scene darkens
no shelter here, in the old dwelling
an echo of years gone by
left as an in memoriam

Fled the yoke of the man in the castle
his cruel minions who cared not
to improve the lives of those
he was in charge of caring for

A distant gun echoes, multiplying the life it took
by countless millions, including
those who answered the call
from the humble abodes out here

Now crumbling slowly, remembering
the golden days of long sunshine and warmth
laughter, singing, merry-making
love, kinship and bonds

Some crossed the seas for better lives
Never to return tto the humble home
Looking down to the shoreline below
Remembering all who departed

Monday, 29 October 2012

Monday 29 October

Another overcast day with occasional rain. There was not much wind, and not very warm - we only managed 7C / 45F. Went to get seed for the birdfeeders, now that the leaves are off the trees. The starlings, sparrows and collared doves were quick to take advantage of the feeding.

I have kept a close eye on hurricane Sandy, and I only need to refer to media coverage. The NHC made a mistake with its 5pm EDT advisory, overwriting it with the 11am advisory. I had to email them, and (with others emailing them as well) they quickly rectified the error. I hope nobody will be hurt as a result of Sandy; we but live in hope.

This morning, I noticed a heavy lift vessel Atlantic docked at the Arnish Fabrication Yard. These vessels tend to come here to uplift ready made items for the renewables industry.

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Sunday, 28 October 2012

Home is the island

Distant shapes on the eastern horizon
The mainland hills, rarely well defined
Far-off mountains beckoning
Sometimes speaking of winter's cold

Alluring to some, in search of great riches
Seeking a better life beyond their range
The lights of the big city
Moving fast, gaining the high life

Dashing up the social ladder
The comforts of a well-filled purse
Poverty, though, is not just monetary
And fair-weather does not filter your friends

But even when all seems so good
One thing though is missing
It'll always be there, on the western horizon
With the lighthouse beaming its call at dusk

As the ferry leaves Loch Broom behind
And Sutherland's mountains recede in the distance
Tiumpan and Arnish winking their welcome
As the boat glides towards the pier

Familiar faces and familiar buildings
The quiet streets in the dim streetlamps' light
The dark roads beyond town but comforting
Home at last, and here to stay

Sunday 28 October

A wet start to the day, with a dry intermission during the afternoon, leaving us with more rain by nightfall. And nightfall occurred well before 5pm, the clocks having gone back last night. The ferry departed for its customary Sunday crossing at 9 am, rather than 2.30pm. This change in schedule had not really been advertised, leaving some people to turn up at the usual time - only to find they had missed the boat. Some could catch the plane to Inverness, but that was soon full up. And it was 10 years ago that Sunday flights commenced here.

I have been keeping an eye on hurricane Sandy, which is going to be a nightmare for the mid-Atlantic states in the US. At least two of my blogging friends appear to be in the path of the storm, and very likely several others are as well. I'll monitor this through my tropical cyclones blog, but please consult the NHC and HPC site for three-hourly updates - if not more frequent once Sandy comes ashore. Also a cause for concern is category II typhoon Son-tinh, which is headed for Hanoi in Vietnam.

If you're in the path of Sandy, stay safe and follow all official directives. 

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Overhead in the sky beating down
the sun radiates its immeasurable heat
absorbed by the waters of this world
gradually warming - east to west

Cloudless skies show countless suns
at an inconceivable distance
reaching there would be
after the end of this planet

Rising from the surface of the ocean
evaporated water, using
some of the sun's heat to escape
higher up into the sky

Reverting back to liquid
releasing the energy again
Towering nearly a dozen miles up
A shard of lightning leaves a trail of thunder

As our world turns, so do the storms
Winds being to blow, higher
The eye up above espies
the signal given - formation alert

The heat from the water now channels
right to the top of the clouds
which have cooled in sharp contrast
Turbulence rises, a storm is born

Dark clouds arrive
over the tropical horizon
Limpid heat blown away
in amazing fury

Rain lashes horizontally
Trees bend if not snap
Hunker down, seek shelter
It's over!

Not so
A calm of an hour
Distant roaring amidst
the deceptive sunshine

Opposing winds resume
their path of destruction
until it has passed
leaving but wreckage

The balance is restored
Heat is transferred to the pole of the earth
Through the winds of the cyclone
The safety valve has worked - equilibrium rules

Hurricane update - 28 October

Hurricane Sandy continues to pose a major threat to the east coast of the USA, from the Carolinas northward. I refer to the NHC for 3-hourly updates. A few notable stats out of the latest advisory.

Hurricane force winds extend for 175 miles from the centre, which is an extremely large radius
Tropical storm force winds (i.e. winds of galeforce or higher) extend for 520 miles from the centre, again an extremely wide radius

Current lowest pressure in the centre is 951 mbar, very low for a system that "only" carries hurricaneforce winds of 75 mph.

Storm surge flooding of 6 to 11 feet is expected around New York

Rainfall totals will add up to 12 inches in places.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

A wet day

Hueless grey drapes across the skies
Uniform in colour, or lack of it
The sun, wan and without warmth,
peeps through the veil a final time

A single drop falls on the ground
followed by countless more
the window soon is streaming
if there was light, the wet road would shine

Darkness comes in well before
the sun heads towards dusk
Lights come on, although it's daytime
Cheerless gloom slowly moves up from the east

The yellow glare of the street lanterns
is softened by the glow of light
reflected by the falling rain
closed out by drawn curtains

A fire dully flickers in the hearth
born of sunshine from when the earth was young
chases the chill of a rainy day
away out and up the chimney

Saturday 27 October

An overcast day which turned very wet by the afternoon. The cold weather relented a bit, with the mercury gradually rising to 9C / 48F. We shall have more rain tomorrow, but the wind will pick up in the second half of the afternoon. The ferry has been retimed its Sunday sailing from 2.30pm to 9am in order to 'beat' the wind and, more to the point, the northerly swell.

It is ten years ago that flights to Stornoway were started on Sundays. It was the beginning of the end, as some would see it, for the Lewis Sunday. I don't believe so. Not much has changed over the 3 years since the Sunday ferry started, and I do not expect hordes of vehicles thronging to the quayside tomorrow morning. The Sunday crossing is in fact the busiest of the week, and helps families to be together over weekends. I don't expect shops to open on Sundays any time soon, nor buses to run on Sunday either.

I hope that hurricane Sandy will not have too severe an impact on the USA. As things stand, the storm will come ashore after the weekend in the middle of the most densely part of the States.

Hurricane update - 27 October

Hurricane Sandy is a major cause for concern along the eastern seaboard of the USA, from Florida all the way to Rhode Island. The storm will broadly maintain hurricane intensity, but carries a windfield of galeforce or higher of no less than 450 miles across.

The hazards accompanying Sandy are threefold.
1. High winds. These are liable to blow down trees (still in full leaf), taking powerlines with them, and damaging houses and other property

2. Storm surge. This is currently forecast at 4 to 8 feet from Ocean City MD as far north as the CT / RI border, which includes New York City.

3. Rainfall. At present, totals of 4 to 8 inches, locally up to 12 inches across parts of the mid-Atlantic states is forecast. This presents the risk of surface and fresh-water flooding.

The NHC carries 3-hourly updates.
The NWS will carry advisories for your locality.

Typhoon Son-tinh is currently south of Hainan Island and bearing down on the coast of northern Vietnam with central winds of 110 knots (125 mph) which will only decrease slightly to 95 knots (110 mph) at landfall. The same hazards apply to this system as outlined with Sandy, but to a higher degree - Son-tinh is equivalent to a category III hurricane. 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Friday 26 October - picture post

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Friday 26 October

A very cold day, with the mercury barely at 5C / 41F, and flurries of snow in the morning. As the sun attempted to warm things up, these turned to hail and finally ceased after lunchtime. At time of posting (10pm), there is heavy snow in the northeast of Scotland, with hazardous driving conditions reported from the area around Braemar.The highlevel route over the Clisham, in North Harris, was also quoted as being under a thin layer of snow.

The east coast of the USA is preparing itself for the arrival of hurricane or tropical storm Sandy, which is presently leaving the Bahamas. It is feared that the storm could bring winds of 70 mph and around 6 inches of rainfall - damage of $1bn is anticipated.

So, you have this old tin of rabbit poison. If this comes in touch with moisture, it will release cyanide gas and that could kill you. How do you get rid of it? Contact a depot and they advise you to wrap it in plastic and send it off to them. Let's vacuum wrap it and then it's all secure. Hitch up the vacuum cleaner hose to the plastic bag containing the tin. Woops, the vacuum draws out the powder from the cracked lid and blows it right into the room you're in! The rest, as they say, is history.

Warning of winter

The last leaves gently float down from the trees
Their dried out husks rustle along the ground
in the cold autumn wind, gathering up
in sheltered corners

Proud stand the clouds, with their white crowns
Robes of white and grey flowing
Rain? No, hail and snow, bitterly cold
The north wind carries a deep bite

Slush in secluded corners from
forgotten hailstones, which have omitted
to melt and will freeze
after the setting of the wan sun

A ribbon of black slopes gradually up
angling over the broad shoulders
of the dark grey mountains
No slush here, just a layer of snow

Go carefully, follow the tracks
if not already filled in by new snow
Here where it's high up, winter has come
But it's yet shy of the seashore

Up by the tops, wearing a trial bonnet
of unwashed white
the winds howl unimpeded
shouting an early warning

Come morning, autumn will have returned
No whites, just dark greens, browns and greys
But for how long?
Until winter truly comes.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Thursday 25 October

Last night, someone at Uig Lodge in Timsgarry (some 35 miles west of here) decided to get rid of some old rabbit poison (containing cyanide), but got into contact with the stuff. He was driven towards town, but was intercepted by the emergency services, who set up a mobile decontamination unit in the middle of the road between Achmore and Leurbost, forcing traffic to divert along the Pentland Road. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

Today saw a transition to markedly colder weather. Although we have the sun back, the moderate northerly wind made the 7C / 45F we had on the thermometer today made it feel a lot colder.

Down in the Caribbean, hurricane Sandy claimed two lives (one in Jamaica, another in Cuba) as it strengthened on passing over both islands. Maximum sustained winds are at 105 mph. The storm will now weaken, but still be a hurricane as it bears down on the Mid Atlantic states and New England in the USA. Oops.

Today's poem (Bridge to Bosta) is a reference to a true story associated with Great Bernera. I wrote it in cooperation with the lady's family, and have their permission to publish the photograph on the entry on this blog. The pic is also shown on my Facebook feed (which has restricted access), but not on the Facebook page on which I publish the poems.

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The bridge to Bosta

Two planks across the rowing boat
A motor car perched precariously
The ferryman rows ponderously
Across the narrow strait with fast flowing water

To work she came, the new nurse for Bernera
Only just on the island an urgent call came
To the house by little Tobson
A young lad lay drowned, claimed by the sea

To no avail did she work to bring him to life
The spirit of life was long gone
A sadness enveloped that house
Close by the double beach

Four times they have tried now
Ever foiled by the tidal currents
Will it work this time round
To drive the bridge’s pillars into the seabed?

The bridge is in place, its engineer proud
The ferryman’s out of a job
Cross the narrows to the Tir Mor
With dry feet and no fear of water

The bridge engineer took the nurse as his wife
And took her far far away
Over the bridge to Tir Mor
And beyond the shores of this land

Never would she reside there again
However much she yearned to one day
Cast her gaze over the wild beach at Bosta
And once more call it home

From the Southern Cross to North Star
Was her last journey beyond this life
The road ended at Bosta
Where now her spirit remains

In memory of Peggy Macleod, 1927-1989

Tir Mor is the local name for the area of “mainland” Lewis south of the Bernera Bridge, containing the villages of Lundale, Crulivig and Earshader.

Hurricane update - 25 October

Hurricane Sandy is leaving Cuba behind, having dumped more than 3 inches of rain in parts of the island. The storm passed directly over Santiago de Cuba at 0400 GMT today (8 hours ago at time of posting), with barometric pressure at 960 mbar, the official reading also quoted by the NHC. The Cuban weather service shows winds of 140 km/h (just below 90 mph) at Cabo Lucrecia, 60 miles north northwest of Guantanamo Bay.

Sandy will now proceed north to the Bahamas, which are on warning for a storm surge of 5 to 8 feet (1.5 to 2.4 metres) above normal tidal levels. The 90 mph winds at Cabo Lucrecia suggest the storm has not weakened and could reintensify further en-route to the Bahamas.

The US state of Florida could get a side-swipe from Sandy as it passes 100 to 200 miles to its east.

Three-hourly updates through the NHC.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Hurricane update - 24 October

Hurricane Sandy passed within 5 miles of Kingston, Jamaica, at 1900 GMT today. Winds of 80 mph occurred in the vicinity of the centre, and the storm will maintain that strength during the 200 mile crossing to Cuba. Having weakened due to the effects of land, Sandy will then reintensify over the Bahamas before transforming into a non-tropical depression. Whether this will affect the US east coast is as yet uncertain.

Tropical storm Son-tinh is passing through the Philippine islands, but once clear of those landmasses will balloon into a typhoon with winds of 90 mph. This system will continue on its present northwesterly course, and will make landfall near Hanoi, Vietnam, in 4 days' time.

Tropical cyclone 01A has formed east of the Horn of Africa, and will make landfall there tomorrow with winds of 55 mph. The rain that this storm brings will be most welcome in the Somali desert around there.

Wednesday 24 October

Overcast with only a few chinks of brightness amongst the clouds. Consequently, no nice cloudscapes, just drab, grey ones. So therefore not dozens of pics of them today. Tomorrow should be better, but a lot colder than the 11C we had today.

At the moment, hurricane Sandy is blasting across Jamaica, with its capital, Kingston, taking a close-up view of the storm. The system will continue north towards eastern Cuba, the Bahamas with the southeast of Florida getting a side-swipe. There is debate among forecasters what will happen once Sandy transforms into a "normal" depression; it is feared that it could head north and strafe the US east coast with force 11 winds.

The annual poppy appeal has been launched, to coincide with the 94th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice. This year, November 11th will fall on a Sunday, making it a true Remembrance Sunday. I am continuing with my compilation of information on the WW1 casualties from this island; the work is not complete (I'm about halfway); and even after I have completed my look-ups, there is still more information that could be added. I have suggested in certain quarters that the Roll of Honour for this island could be republished, but I don't know if that will be taken up. The original Roll, published in 1921, is not free of errors and oversights, but would take a monumental effort to revise, requiring input from the various historical societies in Lewis. The problem there lies in money and manpower. I would think that a small share of the £50m allocated to the WW1 centenary in 2014 by PM David Cameron might be helpful. However, that's not for me to decide.


Deep blue seas hurrying through
a narrow channel to the next island
None left there as permanent residents
Only the markers to those gone before

The village in the sand was stirred
by violent winds from the present age
what did it look like, they wanted to know
only guesswork

Yielding an edifice that's stood
the test of time, but failed the one of modernity
Above the sands and past the river
None now live there, others come admiring

A dark storm looms from the northwest
The islands fade in the squalls of winter
Reappearing in blinding clearances
in a white wreath of flying foam

From small to larger the people were moved
To the township southeast, round the minister's manse
Further southeast more ancient a temple
Not to the sun but for observing the moon

Long gone have the people who erected the stones
Long gone are those driven away
At the whim of a minion, not caring
but for his master's pocket

Only the beach now remains
With the islands beyond
And the memory of those gone before
At Bosta

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Hurricane update - 23 October

Tropical storm Sandy formed yesterday and is now moving north towards Jamaica. At present, the system is still 260 miles to the south of that Caribbean island, but will reach it tomorrow at hurricane force, with winds in excess of 75 mph. After traversing Jamaica, it will be the turn of eastern Cuba, parts of which are (with Jamaica) on a hurricane warning. Sandy will then move over the Bahamas, which will see the storm below hurricane force, but there is not much difference between winds of 70 and 60 knots.

Tropical depression 24W (locally named Ofel) has formed to the southeast of Manila in the Philippines. The system will reach tropical storm strength as it passes just north of Mindanao, through the Visayas and past southern Luzon. Although the winds do not appear to be much of a problem, rain will be. The mountainous terrain of the Philippine islands tends to lead to flash floods and mud slides which are life-threatening.

Somalia should be keeping an eye on a tropical disturbance (95B) which is slipping across the Arabian Sea from southern India and has a high (> 50%) likelihood of becoming a tropical cyclone. If it does, it is likely to die a death over Cape Guardafui (also known as the Horn of Africa) which is a desert area. Like in the adjacent Arabian peninsula, tropical cyclones tend to be welcome in northeast Africa for the rain they bring. 

Tuesday 23 October - picture post

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Tuesday 23 October

The day started off quite foggy, but this lifted after sunrise, 8.30 am. Afterwards, it stayed bright and sunny right throughout the day. Even when darkness fell, there was hardly a cloud in the sky.

Over on the mainland, an accident closed the road between Inverness and Ullapool, from where the ferry to Stornoway sails. This resulted in delays to traffic seeking to catch the 5.35pm ferry. Calmac showed consideration by delaying this sailing until 8.30pm. It is now due in at 11.15pm. Three hours late, but better late than not until next morning.

I omitted to mention that last week saw the 120th edition of the Royal National Mod in Dunoon. At that event, the schools in the Western Isles did very well, scooping up several awards. The 2016 Mod will be held here in Stornoway, after visits to Paisley next year, Inverness in 2014 and Oban in 2015. It is a showcase for Gaelic culture, not just singing or music. The Mod programme also includes shinty matches and readings of prose. As far as the singing goes, marks are not only awarded for the musical qualities, but also Gaelic pronounciation.

Gaelic is a language that is only a distant relation to English, but several Gaelic words have crept into common usage in English. The word galore (gu leoir) is the best-known example. I do not speak Gaelic, and only know a handful of words. I am familiar though with the Gaelic version of placenames in Lewis and Harris. Although these may appear like a bad bout of alphabet soup (e.g. Gearraidh na h-Aibhne), if you know the rules on pronounciation and can manage the guttural CH (as in LOCH) you'll do fine. To me, the Gaelic names make more sense than the Anglicised versions.

Foggy morning

Wreathing in white and not a sound
Except the intermittent blaring horn
Damp and dank, hiding all
Visibility nil, humidity high

Light increases from the dawn
A wading bird's warbling call
The steady chugging of an engine
But not a thing in sight

The eastern horizon turns golden
The sun arises, and in scorn
rips a tear in the pale white blanket
showing a nearby hillside, part exposed

Slowly, steadily the tears increase
As familiar landmarks reappear
A ship closing in to dock
The quayside with its bollards too

Last to reemerge for distance
The monument on the hilltop yonder
Whilst the lighthouse in bemusement
Watches over the dissipating cloud

Quickly now the wisps disperse
Hiding in the moorland's folds
But even there the sun will come
Victorious into a golden day

The BBC after Jimmy Savile

I just want to put into words my sentiments after the recent revelations of Jimmy Savile, late TV personality and newly discovered predatory sex offender. Apart from the complete destruction of Savile's reputation as a fund-raiser of impeccable morals, it has also inflicted serious damage on the BBC's reputation - succinctly summarised by the organisation's byname of "Auntie Beeb".

Jimmy Savile, who died in November 2011 aged 86, is now known to have abused (vulnerable) children over a period stretching from the late 1950s until near the time of his death. Allegations, suspicions and rumours were never far from the star, and questions were asked - even to Savile himself - but never fully investigated or followed up. I cannot imagine what his victims had to go through over the decades to watch their tormentor persuing his career (both charitable and predatory) with impunity. Shortly after his death, an investigation by the BBC's Newsnight programme found creditable evidence of Savile's wrongdoing - but was inexplicably shelved at a day's notice. A few weeks later, on Boxing Day last year, a massive tribute was broadcast. But it was not until ITV broadcast the investigation that the BBC's Newsnight was barred from airing, earlier this month [I did not see it as I was in Holland at the time], that the cat finally came out of the bag.

To my mind, there was an attitude around (not just at the BBC) that Jimmy Savile was invulnerable, nobody could touch him - as he himself said in one interview. It does not say much good about attitudes at the broadcaster that this was allowed to continue for five decades. However, I have heard of at least one other person with a similar 'aura': Ratko Mladic, the erstwhile commander of the Bosnian Serb forces when overrunning the enclave at Srebrenica in 1995. Although there were dozens of armed UN soldiers around, nobody was able to put a bullet into Mladic - on account of the personality he radiated. And the same applies to Jimmy Savile.

This comes hard on the heels of an investigation into an event during the 1984/5 miners' strike, when a picket at the Orgreave coking plant near Sheffield was violently dispersed with excessive force by South Yorkshire Police. This was condoned by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who referred to the strikers as 'the enemy within'. At the time, the BBC faithfully broadcast a version of events that has now turned out to be biased against the miners.

In the 1980s, I regularly listened to BBC Radio 4 on longwave, living in Holland at the time. The BBC World Service was another source of information for me, and it had a reputation for unbiased, free and fair reporting. I extrapolated that to the whole of the BBC's output, but I don't think that was quite justified. The attitudes towards Jimmy Savile, compounded by the Orgreave revelations have damaged the broadcaster's integrity. The performance by the Director General, Mr Entwistle, this morning, did nothing to assuage my misgivings, in fact strengthened them.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Monday 22 October

7 am this morning, and the string of lights to the right is the ferry departing for Ullapool. There was a beginning of light in the sky to the east, but this had not yet spread further. An hour later, another gorgeous day had broken, with bright sunshine and only a little cloud.Out of the wind the sun is still warm, and the thermometer peaked at 13C / 55F this afternoon. Put some bulbs into pots for next spring, and let's hope that the oncoming cold spell doesn't do them any harm. By the end of the week, we'll be deep into single figures (around 40F) with snow on the mountains, and no immediate end in sight to some cold weather.

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The promise

As colour fades from the evening sky
A promise of renewal the next day
Whether sunny, cloudy, rain or snow
Colour will return another morn

The last leaf drifts down to earth
Nuts litter the woodland ground
A promise of renewal the next year
Life will return another day

Winter cold approaches from the north
As daylight hours diminish by the day
Soon white will dominate the land
Accentuating what colour is left

As snow blankets the sleeping soil
And fierce winds strafe the land
Green curtains flow in the distant north
And stars are seen for longer than the sun

But when winter's grasp seems fiercest
Unbreakable it would seem
Green tips pierce the frozen soil
And delicate blooms emerge

From underneath the warm white layer
The promise is fulfilled
And soon the winter cold takes flight
With light and colour restored

Eventually day and night equal in length
The snow retreats to the mountain tops
Life recurs, gambolling in play
As lambs fulfil the promise of life

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sunday 21 October

Another cool but bright day, after some overnight rain. The leaves are falling off the trees now, having turned all shades of green, brown, yellow or red in the process. Went for a short amble over to Goat Island and round the power station this afternoon, and even on that relatively treeless stretch came across a few expressions of autumn. The forecast says we can expect a foretaste of winter by the end of the coming week, with snow on the hills and sleet at lower levels. Well, November isn't far off now, and summer a distant memory. The ferries and buses in our neck of the woods have now gone to winter timetabling; no major changes on the ferry to and from Ullapool, but there are fewer buses around. Usually. The problem is that the winter timetables for the buses have not yet been published. Yesterday was the last day of the Royal National Mod in Dunoon, across the Clyde from Gourock (west of Glasgow), which really signals the end of the season. From now on, all will be hunkering down for winter, and once the clocks go back next Sunday morning, the winter half-year will really have started.

In the below pics, the black and white boat is the local pilot boat. It has been laid up on the slipway since about July, when they found her to be springing a leak. On Friday, I discovered that the Monaco (last reported sunk at her berth) had been refloated alongside the Cromwell Street Quay.

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The boat

Sailing the waters of the far northwest
Braving the elements, fair and foul
Guarding the lives of all on board
Bringing their livelihood safely to shore

Aided by motorpower, perhaps earlier sail
A net from the stern, or a line athwart
Hooks to catch mackerel
A creel for some crabs, or a lobster

Within sight of Suilven, Stac Polly or An Teallach
The Clisham a beacon, high up in Harris
Bowing for the blue men of Shiant
Or bucking in the Atlantic swell

Hastily brought in for that storm of a lifetime
Tethered on a mooring, in safety they thought
Found crashed on the boulders
When the storm had blown itself out

Many's a time I walked by on Goat Island
Ever more pieces went missing each time
Until only the bow remained on the strand
And finally only its soul, winging away to the Minch

Saturday, 20 October 2012


The crescent moon rides
high in the sunset skies
cloudstreams far above
appear motionless

Reflected in the sea
not ruffled by movement
winking into the night
a reassurance from the lighthouse

A bird slowly glides past
looking for its last meal of the day
Nothing to be seen
darkness is nigh

Wisps of mist slowly drift by
gliding over the water
ghostly appearances
from the now faded day

The hunter now rises
chasing the bull
his two hounds faithful
close by to his east

As he moves to the west
will daybreak ensue
But what will that bring?
Only time will tell

Saturday 20 October

A beautiful, sunny day but not feeling very warm. The daytime max was 11C, but as I type this (9.30pm), the mercury has plummeted to freezing. Hope the bulbs I put in pots will keep well, although said pots are right against a wall. Things are quiet in the tropics, except for the Caribbean Sea where a tropical disturbance (prosaically named 99L) is threatening rain to the islands of Hispaniola, Cuba and the Bahamas over the next few days.

Today was good for cloudscapes, so I'll share a few pics of those.

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Apart from clouds, these pics clearly show the great weather we're having at the moment. Leaving the temps to one side, what's that, autumn?

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